The quiet crossing of ocean tipping points

Anthropogenic climate change profoundly alters the ocean’s environmental conditions, which, in turn, impact marine ecosystems. Some of these changes are happening fast and may be difficult to reverse. The identification and monitoring of such changes, which also includes tipping points, is an ongoing and emerging research effort. Prevention of negative impacts requires mitigation efforts based on feasible research-based pathways. Climate-induced tipping points are traditionally associated with singular catastrophic events (relative to natural variations) of dramatic negative impact. High-probability high-impact ocean tipping points due to warming, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation may be more fragmented both regionally and in time but add up to global dimensions. These tipping points in combination with gradual changes need to be addressed as seriously as singular catastrophic events in order to prevent the cumulative and often compounding negative societal and Earth system impacts.

Heinze C., Blenckner T., Martins H., Rusiecka D., Döscher R., Gehlen M., Gruber N., Holland E., Hov Ø., Joos F., Matthews J. B. R., Rødven R. & Wilson S., 2021. The quiet crossing of ocean tipping points. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 118 (9): e2008478118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2008478118. Article.

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